The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft was held on Thursday, and with the 29th overall pick, the New England Patriots selected DE Dominique Easley of the Florida Gators. Sure, one of the areas the Patriots needed to address this offseason was DE, as their pass rush needed an upgrade from last season, but was Easley the best the Patriots could do at 29?
Time to go all Dr. Evil –”how about, no, Scott?”
I don’t know if (or how hard) they tried to trade the 29th pick, but that would have been the smart play. But since the Patriots kept their first-round pick, let’s live in that world. It would have been great to see the Patriots select FSU wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, but the Carolina Panthers (who have almost no wide receivers returning from last season) snatched him up at 28. Okay, no big deal. Plan A (trading down) and plan B (at least in my mind — Benjamin) weren’t happening.
Most Patriots fans probably assumed head coach Bill Belichick and company would select either Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman or Notre Dame DT Louis Nix III. USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, who is definitely a first-round talent but will now go in the second-round, would have made a lot of sense at 29 for the Patriots.
Even though the Patriots didn’t need to use a first-round pick on a TE, drafting Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro would have made more sense. Amaro is a huge talent, and the Patriots need depth at the TE position with Aaron Hernandez in prison (and still not staying out of trouble) and the human chandelier that is Rob Gronkowski not being able to stay healthy. Gronk is amazing to watch play football and is an unbelievable talent, but he can’t stay on the field. Amaro would have been a good fit in New England. Selecting any of those four would have made more sense.
Maybe Belichick just loves Florida players too much — Hernandez (whoops), Jermaine Cunningham (cut after three seasons) and Brandon Spikes (now with the Buffalo Bills and didn’t leave New England on the best of terms). Maybe the Patriots overreached and tried to fill one of their needs (they don’t have one glaring need, but they need depth at multiple positions) instead of drafting the best available player to fill one of their needs.
Is it possible that Easley produces for the Patriots? Absolutely. Easley upgrades the Patriots’ defense on passing downs and will help with their interior rush. He could have been a top 10 pick if he hadn’t torn his ACL during the 2013 season, but he’s now torn his ACL twice. That has to be a huge concern when selecting a player with a first-round pick. It’s going to be difficult for Easley to show what he can do if he’s injured. He is also smaller than you’d like at 6-foot-1 and 285-pounds, but he is explosive.
Hopefully Easley gets and stays healthy and produces on the field. If he can’t, this was a waste of first-round pick. The Patriots could have possibly drafted Easley (or at least another DL) with their second-round pick.
Was this the worst pick the Patriots could have made? No, but it’s hard to believe they couldn’t have done a lot better. Final grade is a B-.